COA students win Maine sustainable business plan award

photo available upon request

RELEASE COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC STUDENTS WIN MAINE SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS AWARD Gourmet Butanol business plan tops sustainability track at University of Southern Maine competition CONTACT: Donna Gold, Public Relations: 207-801-5623, 207-266-4470,

BAR HARBOR, ME-Four College of the Atlantic students, working toward establishing a business that converts organic waste into a carbon-neutral replacement for gasoline and home heating oil, won the sustainable business track of a statewide business plan competition at the University of Southern Maine earlier this month.

Under the leadership of COA senior Nicholas Harris, students Lisa Bjerke, Matthew McElwee and Cayla Moore have been working on creating the venture Gourmet Butanol. Butanol is a fuel that can be used as heating oil and in automobile gas tanks without modifying any systems, and yet has little to no incremental carbon footprint, as it is distilled from organic matter.

Says Harris, who is originally from Carbondale, CO, “our fuel [butanol] is made from an underutilized resource-mostly organic waste. It is different from more commonly used biofuels such as ethanol, which are often made from subsidized food crops such as corn-this drives up food prices.”

As a pilot project, Gourmet Butanol is working to produce fuel from Mount Desert Island’s organic waste-food waste from hotels and gardens, as well as the college’s own waste. The students are hoping to find an institutional market on the island for the fuel it produces. The net result will eliminate CO2 emissions while also strengthening the local economy, reducing local landfills, and providing soil-strengthening compost, since a byproduct of the butanol process is compost, says Harris.

The four have been working on the business plan and the project itself through COA’s Sustainable Business Program, run by Jay Friedlander. They’ve also been working closely with Don Cass, faculty member in chemistry. The Gourmet Butanol team was recently granted a place in COA’s Sustainable Enterprise Incubator, which accelerates student ventures by providing up to $5,000 in start-up capital, mentoring, and professional services for a year including post-graduation.

USM’s 2011 Statewide Student Business Plan Competition was open to any part-time or full-time, undergraduate or graduate student attending any institution of higher education in Maine. Twenty-five teams from the University of Southern Maine, the University of Maine at Orono, the University of Maine at Farmington, College of the Atlantic, and Colby, Thomas, and Southern Maine Community colleges registered for the competition and 17 teams submitted business plans during the eight-month process. As winners of the sustainable track, the Gourmet Butanol team received a $2000 check from the university, along with professional services.

“Winning the USM competition is another brick in the road toward creating this venture,” says Friedlander, who holds COA’s Sharpe-McNally Chair in Green and Socially Responsible Business. “Gourmet Butanol shows how sustainable business is synonymous with innovation and value creation that enhances the environment and local community. The student venture has the potential to replace fossil fuels with a local carbon neutral fuel by using food waste as an input. This builds the local economy, reduces carbon, solves a solid waste problem and turns a waste product into valuable resources. This is exactly the type of enterprise encouraged by College of the Atlantic’s Sustainable Business Program.”

For more information on Gourmet Butanol, contact Nick Harris at For information on COA’s Sustainable Business program, contact Jay Friedlander at, (207) 801-5716 or

Donna Gold Director of Public Relations, Editor, COA Magazine College of the Atlantic 105 Eden Street Bar Harbor, Maine 04609 207-801-5623, office 207-266-4470, cell

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